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Toddlers and Technology: Proposed Parenting Plan Must be Considered on Its Own Merits in Change of Domicile Motion

The Court of Appeals recently held that a trial court's myopic focus on a toddler's purported ability to use technology in deciding a change of domicile motion was error. In McKimmy v Melling, decided on February 10, 2011 (for publication), a mother of two young boys sought the court's permission to move to North Dakota to live with her fiance. The mother's proposed parenting plan included the father having the boys over the summer, alternate holidays and Skype communication over the Internet. The trial court acknowledged that the proposed plan would give the father more time with the boys than the original parenting schedule, but was troubled by the father's inability to have regular weekly, "in person" contact with the boys under the new plan. Finding that the old plan provided "more meaningful" interaction between the boys and their father, it denied the motion. The Court of Appeals vacated the order, ruling that the trial court wrongly compared the new plan to the original plan rather than simply analyzing whether the proposed plan allowed the father to maintain a parental relationship with the children under MCL 722.31(4)(c). The relevant query is not which plan is better, but whether the new plan has the capacity to adequately preserve and foster the parental relationship between the children and the left behind parent.

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